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To Dye or Not to Dye...

ageing hair style Feb 20, 2019

 ...that is the question!

How do you feel about your hair right now? As we age, our hair gradually shows changes in colour and texture and is one of the most visible signs of ageing.

Hair changes texture with age, just as our skin does. The received convention amongst trichologists says that by age 50, 50% of the population will have 50% grey hair. 

Some of us also experience hair loss, which can be distressing.

"The sudden, diffuse loss of hair from all over the scalp is called ‘telogen effluvium’ and can be the result of improper nutrition, stress, hormonal upsets and pregnancy. A reduction in your hair’s diameter can also be influenced by these things, but is most often due to genetics, follicle sensitivity to hormones, and to age." Philip Kingsley

If you have noticed your hair thinning significantly, it’s worth seeing a doctor to rule out other underlying problems such as a dysfunctional thyroid.

If you are just starting to notice a few silver threads coming through, hands up if you pull them out!

The best advice on that is - don’t! See below...

Here are a few grey hair facts:

  • The life span of one hair is 1-3 years before it sheds, making way for a new one 
  • Stress doesn't make hair go grey, but it can make you shed hair
  • As we age, we generate fewer of the cells that create pigment
  • Hydrogen peroxide naturally occurs in our hair follicles, and as we get older, it builds up. This build-up blocks the production of hair pigment: melanin.
  • Pulling our grey hairs can damage the follicle, making them grow back crinkly

There can be many reasons for feeling that we actually need to disguise the grey in our hair. There is no doubt that, for some women, leaving their greys makes them feel older. If we are newly single and dating, we want to look and feel our best and, let’s be honest, for many of us, that involves feeling and looking youthful and vibrant.

My dad used to say, never trust a woman who dyes her hair because if she’s going to lie about that,  what else is she living about! Sorry, Dad, I think you went a bit too far there! For me, I dye because my hair is neither grey nor the colour it used to be - it is at the stage where I am losing pigment but, to my eyes, it looks flat and dull. Boosting my hair colour makes me feel brighter. 

If you are holding down a demanding and competitive career, visible signs of ageing might not help in a society where age is arguably no longer seen as a mark of wisdom and older workers are far from revered.

I once met a man who had spent most of his working life in South Korea. He kept his hair dyed an unlikely blue-black for just that reason.

What about the health risks of dying your hair? Some of the ingredients in common hair dyes, such as peroxide, ammonia and Para-phenylenediamine (PPDs) are believed to be toxic, and formaldehyde is a known carcinogen.

The jury seems to be out on whether there is a definitive link between hair dye use and cancer, with some studies showing a small risk. However, as hair is made of keratin - essentially dead matter - it would be difficult for these chemicals to enter the blood stream. The danger comes through the skin, which is why you are required to take a regular patch test to test for reactions by your salon as many of us are allergic to the ingredients.

In conclusion, dying your hair will inevitably add to your “toxic load”, but current research appears to have concluded that the risks are small.

Of course, many women now embrace the grey and it can look stunning. As one of my clients and collaborators said to me recently:

“This is me - grey hair, no make-up: what you see is what you get.”

In my opinion, we need to ditch judgement about grey hair (we need to ditch judgement about everything to do with other people’s choices over their appearance!) This time in our lives is a time to say to hell with what everyone else thinks and go with what you want to do with your hair, make- up and fashion choices. Do what makes you feel good. And celebrate and support each other in our choices!

 

Sources:

Good Housekeeping Magazine, Gray hair facts https://bit.ly/2Gtisi7

Philip Kingsley https://bit.ly/2C2H7Gq

The American Cancer Society https://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancer-causes/hair-dyes.html

https://stylecaster.com/beauty/hair-dye-chemicals/

 

 

Photo by Alexander Possingham on Unsplash

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